Monthly Archives: June 2013

Back Support Belts

Six Back Support Belt Choices That Could Save Your Spine on The Street Or In The Dirt, But Which Is Best?

by Scott Rousseau, photos by Dave Searle & Gina Ciolo

Excerpt taken from Motorcycle Consumer News, March 2012. (click here to read full pdf here)

There are hundreds of back support belts on the market today, including motorcycling specific styles ranging from basic motocross-style kidney belts to more substantial belts designed for long-distance road riding. Some motorcyclists believe that weightlifter-style belts are the best choice, while others swear that the utility-style belts, such as those worn by warehouse workers, are the hot ticket. So, we compiled six belts that represent the various styles of back support belts on the market today and put them to the test.

Our findings? When it comes to managing back pain, anything is better than nothing, but some models that we tested did stand out, and one of them offered just the right combination of support, comfort, fit and value to earn our MCN Best Buy recommendation.

MCN first presented the BackA-Line Dynamic Support belt as one of our Innovations of the Month over a decade ago, in our June 2001 issue. The belt’s basic design hasn’t changed since then, and it hasn’t needed to.

The Dynamic Support features a patented, rigid lumbar support pad that covers virtually the entire lower back area (see inset)—the only belt in this test to do so. This support pad is gently curved on the inside surface and provided with a channel to avoid direct contact with the spine. The pad’s shape is designed to encourage the natural curvature of the lower back for proper posture while offering lumbar and kidney support.

The curved back area of the Dynamic Support measures 8.25″ top to bottom at its tallest point. The belt is initially closed via a 4.25″ wide strap that uses hook-and-loop material. An additional 2″ cinch strap wraps across the abdomen, through a steel loop and doubles back for added security and support and is also secured by hook and loop material.

10 Things You Should Know About Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Learn About Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome

FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) too often dismissed as the newest fad disease. It was actually first described in 1816 by Dr. Balfour, a surgeon.More than half of all FMS patients undergo unnecessary surgery as a result of misdiagnosis.The Official Diagnosis (Copenhagen Declaration) defines FMS as a painful but not articular (not in the joints) condition predominantly involving muscles. It is the most common cause of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. The essential symptom of FMS is pain. Older patients are more troubled by fatigue and depression.

Fibromyalgia discriminates against women. More women than men have FMS, but MPS (Myofascial Pain Syndrome) affects men and women in equal numbers

Fibromyalgia is a biochemical disorder. It is, among other things, a systemic neurotransmitter dysregulation with many biochemical causes. Neurotransmitters are the information highway between the body and the mind.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a neuromuscular condition. MPS happens because of mechanical failures. MPS patients have trigger points all over their bodies.

Myofascia is a thin, almost translucent film that wraps around muscle tissue and is the tissue that holds all the other parts together. It gives shape and supports all of the body’s muscles. It continues past the muscle and blends into the bone.

Trigger points occur primarily in the myofascia. When muscles are in a state of continued tension they cannot get the blood and oxygen they need, and so produce excess waste that can’t be removed. This creates an area in the myofascia starved for nutrition and oxygen, and loaded with toxic waste. This area is called a trigger point. Trigger points are toxic waste dumps. Trigger points cause muscle strength to become unreliable. Ever drop something unexpectedly or have a leg give way? That’s a trigger point at work.

Traumatic FMS can be caused by auto accidents, repetitive motion disorders or degenerating discs and may show up as tender points clustered around the damaged area in addition or instead of the 18 standard points.

The effects of low back pain from myofascial trigger points can be as bad or worse than low back pain caused by a herniated disc. Make sure your doctor knows about trigger points. Try to find a support group, as there are many others suffering with you.

Reprinted with permission from

A Better Way To Sleep

Simple Tips To Improve Your Sleep

The quality of your sleep has a major impact on the quality of your life. During periods of rest and sleep your body attempts to counteract the everyday effects of stress and pain. Sleep charges your battery and rejuvenates you so you can participate in each day’s activities with enthusiasm. If you wake up rested and refreshed, it’s easier to start the day with a positive attitude.

During an average week, you spend about as much time sleeping as you do working, so it is important to make the most of sleeping hours. In order to make the most out of your sleep, you may have to change some of your customary sleeping habits. Try these simple suggestions to improve sleep starting tonight:

  • A parallel neck and chest promotes deep breathing during sleep. This is better than tucking the chin in, which stretches the neck.
  • Proper neck and head position restores and supports a normal back curve. Rounded shoulders reduce lung capacity.
  • An open position relieves pressure on internal organs. This is preferred to a tucked position which compresses the organs.
  • A curved spine restores and supports normal lower back curves. A rounded back reverses the curve of the lower back, stretching muscles and ligaments.
  • Bend legs slightly to allow for optimum blood flow through the legs to the heart. Knees sharply bent reduce circulation to the legs.

A Better Way To Sleep Part 2

How to Achieve Better Sleep – Part II

by Dr.Scott Donkin

May factors contribute to the quality of your sleep, including the foods you consume, your emotional state and the condition of your bedding.

Diet: Eat balanced meals at regular times. Avoid caffeinated products after 3 p.m.. Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and many common pain relievers have caffeine as an ingredient and may affect your ability to sleep. Since nicotine also stimulates the central nervous system, smokers may want to quit well before bedtime.

Alcohol, a depressant, can also affect the quality of your sleep. A nightcap may make you feel drowsy, but it may also keep you from achieving a deep sleep, which in turn may cause you to wake often during the night.
A light bedtime snack comprised of food high in carbohydrates may help you become drowsy. Avoid foods that are spicy or high in fat as they can keep your digestive system overactive.

Relax and enjoy: We would all like to escape the stress and strain on our emotions that everyday life can bring. It is often difficult to put your thoughts away as you try to sleep. You can, however, learn to relax.
If your muscles feel tied up in knots or if your mind continues to whirl at a fast pace, you may need to try some relaxation techniques. As you lie in bed, stretch your body and imagine each part of your body letting go of the tension you’ve generated through the day. Let your thoughts float. Pleasant imagery can help you get the feeling of relaxation and warmth that promotes restful sleep.

If you are tossing and turning after 20 minutes or do not feel drowsy, don’t continue to lie in bed. Get up, go into another room and occupy yourself with a relaxing activity like reading until you feel sleepy.
About bedding: Don’t forget that the environment you sleep in is also very important. Make it quiet, dark and slightly cool. Avoid drafts and fans that may blow directly on you as you sleep.

Your bedding should be large and firm enough for comfort. When purchasing a bedding set, lie down for a full five minutes (with you partner if your share a bed). Don’t be intimidated by store surroundings. Your comfort is what really matters. The Better Sleep Council recommends replacing a mattress every eight to ten years.
If you are unsure what type of bedding would work best for you, consult with a doctor or chiropractic that has a thorough understanding of your body mechanics.

Dr. Scott Donkin is an expert in occupational health and wellness with a successful private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the author of Sitting on the Job, How to Survive the Stresses of Sitting Down to Work – A Practical Handbook ($15 plus $4 S&H); 1-800-552-6347.

Back Health Questions

Common Questions Regarding Back Health

Answers By Scott W. Donkin, D.C.

Q.What is the best position for sleeping – back or front? I have minor back pain on occasion and am curious if sleeping on my front is any worse than sleeping on my back? It does not seem to matter, although I sleep better lying on my front. Thanks for the help. -Mike

A: Although stomach sleeping and back sleeping are common positions, the most common and preferred position, in my opinion, is side sleeping. There are several ways to sleep on your side advantageously, and several ways that could cause problems. As with any sleeping position, the unique contours of your body must be supported in good alignment by your mattress and your pillow. For example, during side sleeping the distance, the thickness of the hips, the waist, the rib cage, the shoulders, the neck, and the head are all different. These contours must be supported by your mattress and pillow in such a way that your hips and shoulders are not in a twisted position and the spinal column is in a position that is parallel with the floor and not made to curve downward or sideways. In addition, the relative thickness or width of the hips is usually quite a bit different than the relative width of the knees when they are held together when sleeping on your side. If this distance varies too much the tendency is for the upper leg to drift over the lower leg, and this results in some tension or twisting in the hips during sleeping. It is advantageous to try a knee pillow so that the tendency to twist the hips by dropping the top leg over the lower leg is eliminated.The Contour Leg Pillow May Help side sleepers.

The common problem with selection of neck pillows for side sleeping is that the distance between the shoulders, the outside of the shoulder and the neck must be filled with pillow in order to maintain a good and comfortable position. Also, the pillow should be recessedto cup the head as this also has a different width than the neck. If the pillow is too thin and does not present an appropriate contour, the tendency is to drop the head towards the bed or jam the shoulder that is in contact with the bed closer to the body; thus, compressing your shoulder, your collar bone, and the lower part of your neck. Another aspect to consider when side sleeping is that if you sleep predominately curled up in a ball, the curves of your lower back and neck are reversed from what their normal position is. Sleeping curled up is okay occasionally, but if it is a predominate posture it actually adds to strains that you may encounter during the day in your waking hours while sitting in a car or at a work station in a slumped forward position. Sleep should be a time when your body is able to repair itself from the stresses and strains of the day and allow you to become recharged for the next day’s activities. It may seem like a daunting task to change a sleeping position, but habits can change gradually over time. If you initiate a different sleeping position when your first going to bed, then over time this will influence your sleeping positions when your not aware of your body postures.

Q.I have been suffering with deep pain on my lower left back. Painkillers don’t seem to work. I have undergone several physical therapies but got no relief. Four years ago, I had a left knee total replacement. Do you think my back problem arises from that? What is the best medication to take to ease the pain? Also, what other solutions can you suggest? Do you think I need any surgery at this time? -Saulmat

A.Following a total knee replacement, it is common for you to favor that knee when walking and moving about during the day and also while sleeping. The technology of total knee replacements has improved tremendously over the years, but recovery is still often painful and requires a concerted effort during the rehabilitation phase in order for a full recovery to be achieved. While you are favoring your knee during the recovery phase, the altered movements can definitely affect your back as well as your ankle. If a mechanical imbalance occurs that you are unable to correct during your rehabilitation phase, then you may be left with mechanical difficulties in your back that result in pain. If you are unable to follow through with your complete rehabilitation schedule you may also have less than full function in that replaced knee. If either of there is the cause, it is best to have your body mechanics evaluated to see if this is the source of your trouble.

Q.I have had sciatica for 5 years and finally had L5S1 fused, but nerve scarring remains so I am still in pain. Ironically, what caused this was trying to be physically fit. I thought I was strengthening my abs by doing sit-ups the old fashioned way, twisting and touching the opposite elbow to my knee. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but this had more devastating effects to my disk than all the tennis, running, and poor lifting techniques.-Don

A.Can doing sit-ups cause back troubles? Your situation is unfortunately all too common. We’ve seen many cases where an individual had well defined, six-pack abdominal muscles and also excruciating back pain. There is a difference between looks and function. Even with good intentions, if you use your head and neck as a handle to pull your body forward when doing abdominal crunches or other exercises, while this does tighten abdominal muscles, it opens the joints throughout the back part of the lower back and neck. This exertion can actually force a disc in between the vertebra to become damaged and move out into the nerve space between the vertebra. It sounds as though this is what happened to you. If this is the case, then it is very important for you to clearly understand your optimum body mechanics, which includes body movements and postures during all phases of your day, so that you can minimize the wear and tear rotation in the spinal joints as well as the supporting muscles and ligaments. Perhaps your question and history will help others to avoid this excruciating problem.

Q.What are the 10 steps I need to do to make my back better? I have a herniated-bulging disc, numbness, burning and tingling in my both legs. Can you help me?-GJB


  • f you are suffering from chronic back pain, understand that if you do the same things you’ve been doing, you’ll probably continue to get the same result. In order to change the result, you first have to change your mind and that means you have to start thinking and looking at your condition in different ways in order to find out the solution that is appropriate for you.
  • Whatever therapy or regimen or combination of activities that you do, always keep in mind the ultimate goal of having a better back and experiencing less pain and difficulty.
  • Seek professionally assistance when needed. Initially you must determine if the cause of your trouble is mechanical in nature, that is due to friction, irritation, or pressure in the joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves, or if your pain is referred from a source further away, such as kidney trouble or other disease processes. If you find that your troubles are mainly mechanical in nature, then it is very important for you to understand clearly how your body works so that you can understand what may be perpetuating your difficulties. For example, discover what the optimum body positions and postures during standing, sitting, and sleeping, and compare your real postures to those optimum positions.
  • Have a skilled health care professional help you learn and access your body postures and movements because you may be too close to the situation to evaluate it yourself.
  • Question everything and keep asking questions until you fully understand the answers to your questions and the direct application to your own condition and lifestyle.
  • Consider that body balance, flexibility, and strength are all important components of having a healthy back and that flexibility usually must come before strength. If you have areas of decreased flexibility and you strengthen the areas around that decreased movement, then often you create more restriction.
  • Stretch regularly and often. Make sure that collectively the stretches you do on a regular basis encourage movement in all directions.
  • Deep breathing on a regular basis is also beneficial as deep breathing in itself helps improve posture, increase circulation, and increase oxygen intake to your body.
  • Remember that subtle changes can have cumulative rewards. If you are experiencing acquired difficulties it could be something relatively simple and often overlooked that you can then change to improve your condition.
  • Don’t give up. Determine the risks of treatments and therapies verses the benefits before you make your final decisions on what you should do. Be sure to weigh all of your options, which include traditional and alternative methods. Find others like yourself who have had similar circumstances and have succeeded. Although your solutions may be different, the fact that others have overcome their troubles should give you inspiration to continue your quest.

Q.I am a 40-year old female. I have previously had three back surgeries. My first back surgery was in 1980, when I was only 19-years old. My second back surgery was three years ago and again three months ago right before my fortieth birthday. I feel worse than ever. In my last surgery, I had a spinal fusion and three discs replaced with titanium discs. My surgery was done through my stomach because of so much scar tissue in my back from previous surgeries. Ever since my stomach was cut to perform my back surgery, the left side of my stomach, around my back, down my left leg, and down into my pelvic area are completely numb. This hurts so badly. I just wish that I had it to do over again. I would definitely do things different and go to a specialist in this field (in the spinal field) instead of just an orthopedic surgeon. I just received my Contour Pillow and Leg Pillow through the mail today, and I am hoping that this will give me at least some relief from the excruciating pain that I have to live with every day of my life. -Lisa

A.While your back condition has had a devastating affect on your life, I commend you for your willingness to look for ways to help yourself. Please read the previous question for suggestions for helping make your back better. Carefully read the information inside the Contour Pillow and Leg Pillow packages, so that you can understand their optimum use. I sincerely hope this helps you.

Dr. Scott Donkin is an expert in occupational health and wellness with a successful private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the author of Sitting on the Job, How to Survive the Stresses of Sitting Down to Work – A Practical Handbook

Back Pain Facts

by Amy Smith

Fact:Nearly 80% of the population will be experience back pain at some point during their lives.
Fact:Stretching can help you ease a sore back because it elongates muscle tissues, which in turn helps decompress the vertebrae, improve blood flow and increase the delivery of oxygen to the back. Remember to stretch when you wake up, after you’ve been sitting for awhile and before you start exercising. [Source: Prevention]

Fact:Approximately 45% of Americans with chronic neck pain attribute it to a motor vehicle accident. Each year some 3 million whiplash injuries are reported. [Back on Track, Dr. Steven Horwitz, May 2001]

Fact:Cold helps reduce swelling and numbs painful areas. Heat helps increase blood circulation and relaxes sore muscles. Limit applications of either to 20 minutes. [Consumer Reports on Health, Sept. 2000]

Fact:Back pain usually stems from a strain or minor tear of the muscles and ligaments that support the lower back. Sometimes heavy lifting or bending wrong can cause an injury. Many incidents of back pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, cold to reduce pain and swelling during the first day or two, then a heating pad. Rest for a couple of days, then start stretching and doing gentle exercise. Inactivity can make you feel worse. See your doctor if pain or discomfort continues. [Consumer Reports on Health, May 2000]

Fact: Never say never. Everyone reacts to diseases, drugs and treatments differently. Every doctor has seen “hopeless” cases turn around. For all of the advances in medicine, the human body remains wondrously strange and full of surprises. [Gregory White Smith, author of Making Miracles Happen]

If you are among the many who suffer, take heart. Selecting the proper pillow may be a simple and effective way to relieve cervical pain and improve quality of life by way of sleep. Look for a pillow that matches the natural curve of your cervical spine. Traditional fiberfill or down pillows tend to flatten beneath the weight of your head, and aren’t shaped to match the curves of your neck. Pillows made of foam material hold their shape better and are often made to mirror the curves of the neck.

Back Saving Tips For The Gardening Enthusiast

Prevent Back Problems While gardening

by Sue Sarko

As the glorious springtime season approaches, many of us begin to think about gardening. For some, gardening is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Those of us who live in colder climates look forward to finally being outside, planting beautiful flowers and shrubs, and tending to the lawn. But gardening enthusiasts who suffer from back pain look forward to the season with some trepidation. Well here’s some back-friendly news that is sure to brighten your day: You can greatly reduce the risk of back injury by following some simple advice! It’s true, gardening does not have to be the back-breaking hobby that it was once thought to be, provided that certain guidelines are followed.

First, sensible planting can reduce much of the hard work associated with gardening and upkeep of the lawn. Try planting low maintenance shrubs and perennials, especially in areas where accessibility is a problem. Choose plants for ground cover to reduce the need for continuous weeding and reduce the size of the lawn that would otherwise demand regular mowing and edging. Avoid planting shrubs, perennials and ground cover around tree bottoms where end of the season clean-up is difficult; remember, you will need to rake leaves out of these areas in the fall. Instead, consider mulching and plant a ring of annuals around the bottom of a tree. Annuals can and should be pulled up at the end of the season, making clean up and raking a breeze.

Don’t skimp on gardening tools. Well-designed tools can be a tremendous help in reducing the potential for back pain. Digging can be particularly harmful to those who are prone to back problems. Consider purchasing a specially designed tool with a spring and lever action to take the “ouch” out of this sometimes back breaking element of gardening. Some manufacturers make spades, forks and other gardening tools in various lengths and sizes to avoid straining the back. If you can’t find these size specific items, at least choose lightweight, long handled gardening tools, preferably made of stainless steel to reduce friction.

Gardening can be a strenuous activity, so exercise prior to can go a long way toward preventing “horticultural” back pain. Try stretching your muscles and doing some warm ups to prepare your body for the tasks ahead. Once you are working, let common sense be your guide. Don’t stoop over; bend at your knees instead. Try not to work too far in front of yourself. Keep your work close, so that your elbows stay bent and your shoulders aren’t forced into a hunched position. And don’t forget to take a break every 15 minutes or so.

Follow this simple advice, let common sense be your guide and DON’T OVERDUE IT! You’ll have a wonderful, rewarding season in the garden, the results of which you’ll enjoy for many years to come.

Degenerative Cycle of Back Pain

Once a person has injured his back, it is very easy for him to slip into a degenerative cycle. Often times the person does not feel much like getting up and about, and yet in most cases, moderate exercise/activity can be the most helpful tool in recuperation. Here’s how it often goes:

  • Generally, at the onset of physical pain, activity is reduced.
  • This reduced activity results in weaker muscles and less support for the spine.
  • With less spinal support, vertebrae can become misaligned, and discs and ligaments may deteriorate. With that, the threshold of pain drops even further than it was with the original trauma.
  • As spinal components deteriorate from inactivity, range of motion tends to decline.
  • As range of motion declines, more muscle strength is lost and the spine loses even more support.
  • Continuing loss of muscular support can cause even more spinal degeneration, and the cycle continues.

In order to prevent this degenerative cycle from taking over your back, you likely need to remain active. Medical attention is absolutely necessary, however following a thorough examination by your doctor and after being given his blessing, returning your back to full strength is crucial to recovery. Here are some guidelines to follow for both acute and chronic back pain.

Acute Back Pain (Recent Onset of Back Pain)

Ideally a person with acute back pain should be performing spine-specific exercises within a few days. Waiting longer can cause the injury to persist longer and has the potential to jumpstart the degenerative cycle.

Chronic Back Pain (Sustained, Ongoing Back Pain)

Small back muscles that maintain the lower back’s curvature generally go unused in cases of chronic back pain. This can lead to muscle atrophy, shrinking and weakening muscles and a loss of coordination. Gentle, spine-specific exercises can quickly restore strength to back muscles.

As always, consult with your doctor as to the specific types of exercises that you would benefit from most.

Exercise Your Way Through The Work Day

Simple Exercise at Work

There are many times throughout the day when you can counteract some of the tension and strain that build up while you work. Micro breaks are very important and can be used to effectively counteract tension buildup and fatigue in muscles and eyes. The break may be momentary or last up to a minute.

Try these micro break exercises to refresh your body and improve your comfort and productivity:


  • Change your focus by looking at an object that is more than twenty feet away. Look out the window or at a picture on the wall that is far away.
  • Take a moment to lightly place the palms of your hands over your eyes while they are closed. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Avoid pressing your palms into your eyeballs.

Neck and Shoulders

  • Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears or roll your shoulders backward and forward in circular motions.
  • Turn your head slowly to one side, then to the other. Tilt your head slowly to one shoulder, then to the other.

Arms and Hands

  • If you do a considerable amount of work with your hands on a keyboard, frequently stretch your fingers, hands, wrists and forearms.


  • If you sit for long periods of time, take a moment to check and adjust your posture or push back into your chair’s back support to stretch.
  • Stretch your leg muscles by straightening your legs and moving your ankles and feet.

Good News For Allergy Sufferers

For All Allergy Sufferers – This is for You

Pillows are a tremendous breeding ground for allergy-causing bacteria: lint, dander, mold, mildew and dust mites. In fact, researches estimates that 25% of the weight of a 1 year old feather pillow is made up of dust mites and dust mite droppings! You can’t reduce night time allergies if 1/4 the weight of your pillow is dust mites!

The Aller-Soft Hypo-Allergenic Pillow Cover

Control allergens with comfort of 100% cotton! Revolutionary technology of AllerSoft Cotton fabric allows for total breath-ability with the feel of the finest cotton linen – all while providing the ultimate in dust mite relief and protection. This is a great option for anyone who wants want a cool natural cotton product and tend to be hotter when sleeping. 100% cotton fabric is a certified allergen barrier and has a soft, jersey knit feel and membrane protection for allergy control.

  • 100% pure cotton for the ultimate in comfort without sacrificing efficacy, no added chemicals or harsh treatments
  • Mean flow pore size diameter of 4.91 microns makes this fabric one of the most effective barriers against pet dander, dust mites, bed bugs and other harmful allergens
  • 3.4 oz per square yard with 280 threads titched per square inch
  • Uniquely samphorized to prevent shrinking and maintain the integrity of the pore size through multiple washings!
  • Air permeability reading of 5 which indicates a wonderfully cool fabric
  • Buy in quantity and save! – Order 2 or more and we’ll take 15% off each one!
  • All covers are sewn with a “safety” double stitch and at least 12 stitches/inch
  • Made in USA, latex free, machine washable, Lifetime Manufacturers Warranty

Help Sore Knees

Simple Exercises for Sore Knees

by Sue Sarko

The knee functions as a hinge for bending and straightening the leg, and allows us to twist and turn as we move. As such, it is highly vulnerable to injury, strain and overuse. Strengthening the muscles around the knee can help to protect the joint, decreasing the possibility of pain, stiffness and overall vulnerability. Exercise can increase your range of motion and ease daily living activities. Following are some ideas for knee strengthening exercises, but proceed with caution. If you experience any pain whatsoever while performing these exercises, stop immediately and seek medical attention. If you are under a doctor’s care consult him/her before starting this exercise regimen.

Leg Extensions: This exercise strengthens the inner thigh muscle to help balance the pull on the knee joint from the outer thigh, which is usually stronger.

  • Sit against a straight back chair.
  • Straighten one leg and hold for one minute, then slowly lower it down
  • Bend your knee and lower halfway back to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds
  • Return foot to the floor and rest
  • Repeat and work up to five repetitions per leg.
  • Increase resistance by adding ankle weights over time

Straight Leg Raises:This exercise strengthens the thigh muscles to help support the knee joint.

  • Sit on the floor against a wall with your legs straight in front of you and your toes pointing upward.
  • Lift one foot off the ground while keeping the leg straight and hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower it back to the ground.
  • After a momentary rest, repeat.
  • Work up to 3 one minute holds per leg

Step-Ups:This exercise helps to strengthen thigh muscles just over the top of the knee joint.

  • Stand in front of a bench or stairs, some type of surface that’s about two feet off the ground.
  • Step up with both feet and straighten your knees, then step down.
  • Repeat at a steady pace. Work up to 25 times.

How Poor Back Support Contributes To Neck Aches and Strains

Avoid Poor back Support

The single most common reason for neck pain is poor posture, while seated, resting, sleeping, etc.. Sitting for prolonged periods hunched over a computer, for example, can cause aches and pains, as can poor sleeping posture. Many people respond to stress by tensing up their neck muscles, which over time, can lead to neck pain as well as headaches. All of the above can cause painful conditions such as neck strain, neck soreness and aches, back pain and more.

Neck strain is most often the result of sleeping in an awkward, unsupported position. This puts tension on the muscles that run along the back of your neck. If you experience neck stiffness upon waking in the morning, nack strain may be the symptom. A good way to relieve the pain and loosen muscles is to stand under a hot shower and let the water run on the nape of your neck. Press your chin to your chest to stretch out those neck muscles for about 30 seconds. Then hold your head back, pause, and flex forward again. Now roll your neck from side to side a few times. This should help to ease the stiffness and pain.

It has been estimated that 70% of all pinched nerves are caused by poor posture. Basically, a pinched nerve means that a disc that sits between two nerves in the neck has probably been bumped out of place. In addition to the pain that you feel in your neck, you may also experience some numbness and/or a tingling sensation in your arms and hands. You’ll need to seek medical attention for this one. Your care giver will likely prescribe neck-stretching exercises to alleviate pain and improve your neck’s muscles to keep the disc in place. Something you can do at home? Improve your posture. Be sure that your head doesn’t bend forward too much. When you are seated in proper posture, you should be able to draw a straight line from your ears to your shoulders on down to the hips.

Below Are Some Additional Ideas That You Can Do At Home To Help Cut Down On Neck Pain

  • Take a bath towel and fold it lengthwise. Wrap it around your neck before bedtime
  • Try aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation – use as directed
  • Massage your neck muscles
  • Relax – Take deep breaths, shrug your shoulders
  • Support your head and neck all night long with a pillow designed for orthopedic support of head, neck and spine.
  • Use a quality neck pillow for head and neck support while traveling, relaxing or almost any sedentary activity.

How To Prevent Lower Back Pain

Tips to Prevent Lower Back Pain

Contributed by Dr. Steven M. Horwitz

Approximately 80% of the population in the western world will experience low back pain during their lives. Low back pain represents the single greatest expenditure of health care resources in our society today. It results in millions of dollars of lost work every day. Most low back pain is preventable.

It is often caused by lack of exercise, overuse, poor posture and poor work or exercise positioning. Obesity causes low back pain by increasing weight and pressure on the spinal discs in the lumbar region. Smoking also contributes, causing decreased blood flow to the spine and decreased bone density. The good news is that many of these issues can be corrected with proper back support. Use a quality cushion designed for proper back support.

How arthritis contributes: Understanding the anatomy of the spine is necessary to understand the cause of pain. The spine is composed of 24 movable bones called vertebrae, 5 of which make up the low back region called the lumbar spine. The function of these vertebrae is to bear weight, as well as to provide a protective covering for the spinal cord. Between each pair of vertebrae are cushions called discs, which help absorb compressive forces and contribute to the movement of each joint segment in the spine.

These vertebrae and discs work together to create motion in each spinal segment. Because they do move, the joints can move out of alignment and cause irritation and pain. If these misalignments are not corrected over time, spinal arthritis may develop due to the wear and tear caused by the improper motion of the segments. Chiropractic adjustments remove these misalignments and restore proper function, thereby helping to prevent the process of arthritis from occurring in the spine.

How disc injuries contribute:vertebra are shock-absorbing cushions called discs. The spinal cord runs behind the discs and is encased within each vertebra. Between each vertebra is a hole on either side through which the spinal cord branches to communicate with the rest of the body. In the lumbar spine region, these nerves go down the legs, as well as to several organ systems, including the reproductive systems, the colon and the bladder.

The outer portion of the disc is formed by a strong material called the annulus fibrosis, which is composed of concentric rings of cartilage. These rings receive nutrients through osmosis, as they have no direct arterial or venous supply. The nucleus pulposis is the center, gelatinous portion of the disc. It can be pushed outward when compressive forces are applied to the spinal column. As the body changes positions, the discs change their shape constantly.

Over a lifetime, the disc can be damaged by acute injuries (car accidents, falls, etc.) or chronic problems (poor posture, incorrect body movements, etc.) which cause the outer annulus portion to weaken and eventually tear. When this occurs, the nucleus pulposis begins to bulge out, which may cause pressure on an adjacent nerve. This creates pain either in the direct area of the spine or along the path of the compressed nerve (i.e.: down the leg or into the groin region).

How to prevent low back pain: The key to low back pain is prevention. Smoking and obesity both are contributors to low back pain. A proper warm-up before exercise, along with a period of time for stretching after exercising will help to prevent injuries. Stretching and strengthening of the core (abdominal, lower back and oblique muscles) is essential for the prevention of low back pain. Always be aware of posture at work, as well as with every day activities in order to avoid injuries over time. Something as small as this can make a huge difference. Finally, make sure your back is in proper alignment. Chiropractic care can prevent arthritis from forming in the spine and prevents low back injuries, both acute and chronic.

Steven M. Horwitz, D.C., of the White Oak Chiropractic Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a graduate of both Cornell University and the National College of Chiropractic. He is certified as a Chiropractic Sports Physician, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Personal Fitness Trainer. He served as the chiropractor for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team and was appointed by the Governor to the Maryland Council on Physical Fitness. Dr. Horwitz is the author of You Can Be Fit and is a popular guest on many radio programs. An avid athlete, he has run marathons and is a champion bodybuilder.

How To Ride Safe – Protect Your Back While Biking

When Riding a Bike, Protect Your Back

To reduce the risk of back strain, a bike must be set up properly for your body. Visit a bicycle shop where a professional can help you determine which bike is best for your frame. When purchasing a bike, there are four significant variables that must be addressed:

  • Correct frame size should leave at least one to two inches of space between the top bar and the rider’s crotch when the rider straddles the bike with both feet flat on the ground.
  • Seat height is right if the rider’s leg can almost straighten out completely when the pedal is at the bottom of its arc. When pedals are in the three and nine o’clock positions, the kneecap of the forward leg should be right over the pedal. If it’s not, slide the seat forward or back accordingly.
  • Seat position should be angled so that the front part is slightly upward.
  • Handlebars should be level with or just below the top of the seat. If you place your elbow against the tip of the saddle, the tips of your extended fingers should just touch the handlebar.

The type and quality of bike that you buy can matter a great deal. For example, a racing bicycle’s low-drop handlebars place greater strain on your back and neck, where as mountain bikes have straight handlebars that allow you to sit more upright, placing less strain on your back. Lean over in your chair, then sit back in a straighter position and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Plus, mountain bikes have fatter tires that absorb more shock and provide more cushion for the ride, a great way to care for bad backs.

Making Sense of Herniated Discs

What is a Herniated Disc?

by Sue Sarko

Why are spinal discs so important? Often, in fact 80% of the time, back pain problems stem from the spinal discs. Discs are extremely important, because they play a central role with regard to the spine’s mobility as well as its stress capacity. Discs are what allow us to twist, turn, bend and move. They provide us with our flexibility, and also act as shock absorbers for the spine’s vertebrae.

How does a disc herniation occur and what are its symptoms? Under stress, the inner material of the disc may swell, pushing through its tough outer membrane. All or part of the disc’s core actually protrudes through that outer membrane which, in turn, causes pressure around the surrounding nerves. This can cause quite a bit of pain. Symptoms, however, vary depending on the location and the extent to which the disc material is protruding. Often times, the pain can cause difficulty walking. If the sciatic nerve is involved, pain in the thigh and lower leg may occur. Something as simple as a sneeze, for example, might send pain shooting down the leg into the calf and ankle area. Disc herniations most commonly target men under the age of 50. They almost always occur in the lumbar, or lower spine area. Very rarely (about 10% of the time) are herniated discs seen in the neck and shoulder area.

My Aching Neck!

Neck Pain Stats and Help

by Sue Sarko
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic neck, shoulder and upper-back pain. Usually the problems start with an attack of muscle tension across the shoulders or along the sides and back of the neck. Over time, the tiniest strain can trigger a painful spasm. Sleeping in an awkward position can make matters worse. If your pillow isn’t right, morning stiffness sounds the alarm.Improper sleep postures and stress due to uncontrolled movement of the cervical spine (the segment of the spine that is located in the neck area) can lead to a condition known as Plastid Deformation, a result of prolonged stretching of the connective soft tissues of the neck. Such stretching may ultimately result in improper alignment of the vertebrae of the cervical spine.

The neck is a network of muscles, ligaments, bone and cartilage. During sleep, muscles and ligaments relax and the cervical spine, if left unsupported, is under attack. Stress, in the form of poorly controlled movement and improperly supported sleeping positions can cause a person to awaken tired and sore.

Here are some compelling statistics: Research suggests that 80 million people in the U.S. and Canada will suffer from neck pain this year, of which 30 million will suffer with chronic neck pain at any given time. 34.4% of the adult population suffer with neck pain and associated headaches any given year. 13.5% of adult women and 9.5% of adult men suffer with chronic neck pain at any given time.

If you are among the many who suffer, take heart. Selecting the proper pillow may be a simple and effective way to relieve cervical pain and improve quality of life by way of sleep. Look for a pillow that matches the natural curve of your cervical spine. Traditional fiberfill or down pillows tend to flatten beneath the weight of your head, and aren’t shaped to match the curves of your neck. Pillows made of foam material hold their shape better and are often made to mirror the curves of the neck.

Pillow Talk

Talking About Bed Pillows

Contributed By AJ Smith
Let’s have a little pillow talk. When was the last time you paid a little attention to your pillow? You probably haven’t even thought about it beyond washing the pillow case. But just like you change your toothbrush occasionally, so should your change your pillow. Try these suggestions:

  • Do you know the average head weighs between ten and twelve pounds? Make sure your pillow is well made with quality materials so your head will be properly supported during eight hours of sleep.
  • The natural curve of your neck must be supported and allow the spine to remain in alignment. A good pillow can help relieve an array of ailments, like stiff necks, aching shoulders and even snoring. Make sure your pillow is up to the job.
  • Your pillow needs to be high enough to support the space between your head, shoulder and the bed when you are sleeping on your side. When side sleeping, use a pillow between the knees to align the hips and reduce pressure points.
  • Dust mites thrive in warm environments. Make sure your air out your bed and pillow each day. You might even want to try an anti-microbial pillow case.
  • For rest, relaxation and comfort, don’t use a pillow that’s too thin or stack too many pillows together. Find a pillow that supports you without going flat or losing its shape.

Preventing Back Problems Through Proper Posture

Preventing Back Problems

Over 95% of adults exhibit poor posture practices through forward head carrying and rounded shoulders. Sooner or later, most are likely to develop physical problems as a result. Postural misalignment is a soft-tissue/ muscle problem, not a bone problem, as is commonly thought. Muscles dictate where bones go and also have the ability to hold the bones in place. So when the spine is out of alignment, muscles must work harder to keep the body functioning, which can in turn, cause overuse, strain, stiffness and pain. Whether back pain problems are a direct result of poor posture or not, (often times they are) back pain sufferers can almost always benefit from polishing up their postural habits. Proper posture is also a terrific way to prevent back problems from occurring in the first place.

During proper posture, the neck should support the head, keeping it aligned with the rest of the spine in balanced posture. Shoulder blades should be level, as should the hips and buttocks. The pelvis should be tilted forward slightly. During proper standing posture, a line dropped from the ear will pass through the shoulder joint, the middle of the hip, just behind the knee and in front of the ankle.

The neck has a slight natural curve, and the lower back, or lumbar area has two curves as well. Proper posture preserves all three curves in their natural state. In fact, when the spine is supported in this fashion, it is self-sufficient, and requires very little help from the surrounding back muscles. That said, it is easy to understand how poor posture can cause muscle strain, soreness and backaches.

Correct posture is important regardless of your body’s position – standing, sitting or lying down. When sitting down, be certain that the three naturally occurring spinal curves are maintained. When lying down, the spine must be kept in proper alignment. It is important to avoid propping the head with an arm or extra pillows. Propping will almost certainly throw your body out of alignment.

Simple Tips For Relieving Stress

Everyone Can Use these Simple Tips for Relieving Stress

People with chronic illnesses or chronic pain need to learn to manage stress. Here are some simple tips for reducing everyday stress from the experts at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society:

  • Simplify your life. Relax a few of your standards. In other words, let the grass grow.
  • Plan ahead in situations that could cause stress. For example, if you expect to be in a situation in which you’ll have to be waiting, take a book with you.
  • Make plans for extra sleep before family gatherings or important events.
  • Learn to say no.
  • If old interests and activities become more difficult or too time consuming, replace them with new ones that fit your current needs.
  • Do the unpleasant things early in the day so that you don’t have to worry about them.
  • Don’t try to answer the phone on the first ring. Let it ring. Consider buying an answering machine.
  • Schedule rest periods. Knowing that you are going to rest on a regular basis can stop you from feeling guilty about not completing a task.
  • Learn to revise time schedules. If you told a friend you would meet at noon, and are running late, is there any reason the appointment can’t be changed to one? Finally, work toward the award for “Has the Best Sense of Humor.” It never hurts to be able to laugh at yourself.

Sleep Solutions : How Sleep Changes With Age

Sleep Changes as We Age

Written by: Sue Sarko
The individual amount of sleep needed each night does not change with age, but the amount of sleep that people actually get does. Starting at about the age of 40, the amount of sleep that the average person gets decreases by about half an hour per decade. People over age 60 typically sleep an average of only 5 hours per night, but it’s the ability to sleep that diminishes, not the need. Older people tend to have a more difficult time maintaining sleep, but falling asleep does not seem to be a problem. A healthy sleep cycle consists of three phases. We progress from light sleep to deep sleep to rapid eye movement, (REM), when dreaming takes place. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night every 90 minutes, but in older people, the amount of deep and REM sleep drops dramatically and the amount of light, easily disturbed sleep increases. Add to this the fact that older people are also more likely to have health problems that interfere with their ability to sleep, and it’s easy to see why this can be a problem.All of that said, listed below are some simple things that can be done to counteract this phenomenon:

  • Avoid evening exercise. Try to get your work out in by 4 p.m. so that your system has time to settle down before bed.
  • Stay away from caffeine at least six hours before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. The effects may help you to fall asleep faster, but you’ll have a harder time staying asleep as the night goes on.
  • Try to finish drinking liquids at least one hour before bed.
  • Block out disturbances by closing curtains and wearing a sleep mask.
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
  • Consider using a white noise device.
  • Try to get outdoors during the midday. This will help to keep your internal clock on schedule.
  • Make sure that your sleeping surface supports your body in it’s proper anatomical position. You want a pillow and mattress or mattress overlay (quality foam mattress Topper) that mirrors your body’s natural curves.